The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Tuesday March 21st

Gender neutral housing changes proposed for UNC

Roommates at UNC might not have to be of the same sex if a proposal — currently in its early stages — is approved by administrators.

This fall, a group of students is working to draft a petition that would allow men and women to share apartments and rooms in UNC’s residence halls.

Organizers said their proposal will be modeled after similar programs on campuses like Duke University, the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Michigan.

Sophomore Kevin Claybren — who began researching this housing option for a class project last spring — said the option would create a more inclusive and compatible environment on campus, especially for gay students.

The new option could discourage harassment issues between roommates who don’t have the same sexual preferences, he said.

“As a college student, we can pick everything from our classes to our dorms, but we cannot pick our roommates,” Claybren said. “This is a personal preference issue.”

He said in 2006 an antiquated N.C. statute that mandated unmarried men and women could not live together was struck down and, with it, the last barrier to gender-nonspecific housing.

Claybren stressed that the group is not out to radically change housing policies but to provide options for students who might feel more comfortable living with members of the opposite sex on campus.

While the option to allow different genders to live together could open doors for couples to share a room, Claybren said data from similar programs at other universities suggests the occurrence is uncommon.

Claybren said he has worked closely with Terri Phoenix, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Center, to devise the best option for UNC.

A resolution to allow gender nonspecific housing at Duke was passed last October. This fall, about 20 students will participate in a pilot housing program that allows men and women to share apartment-style residence halls on Duke’s central campus.

Sophomore Rachel Harris said she would not have been able to live with her male roommate, senior Manny Hidalgo, if it weren’t for the new option.

Students had to attend several information sessions before being allowed to live together, Hidalgo said.

“They wanted us to understand if either one of us gets reassigned, the apartment does not stay gender neutral and that’s because the process is entirely opt-in and it’s strictly voluntary,” said Hidalgo, who is also an employee of Duke Resident Life and Housing Services. He said his opinions are not representative of the housing department.

The push for gender-neutral housing was led by members of the Duke LGBT community, Hidalgo said.

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